Bellator flyweight champion Juliana Velasquez believes that her title reign will be a lengthy one because she doesn’t let the belt go to her head.
Velasquez says life hasn’t changed much since winning the belt. Sitting down with MMA Sucka, she was candid about her new life as a Bellator champion.
“I’ve been recognized on the streets more often than before, but that didn’t change much of my life. I didn’t let it affect me in any way. It didn’t change me negatively, so only good things so far.”
Undefeated, Velasquez is making sure to stay grounded as she prepares for her first title defense against Denise Kielholtz at Friday’s Bellator 262. Unlike many fighters, once they win a championship, she doesn’t view herself as someone who has completed her championship quest just yet.
“I don’t think of myself that way. So to me, it’s like I’m going after a new title every time. I don’t even look at that belt [that] much. I have it hidden here, so it doesn’t affect me. I think that I still have a lot of things to accomplish. It’s going to be my first title defense and there’ll be some other challenges I’ll have after that. So I like to think that there’s one step at a time and I don’t let it get to my head.”
Juliana Velasquez wants to finish fights but isn’t obsessed with it.
Juliana Velasquez has proven that she has the power and skill to finish a fight. But the champion recognizes that being an intelligent fighter is more important than getting the finish at times.
“I always look for a finish,” Velasquez said. “And of course, it [would have been] very nice for me if I got that [finish] in the title fight. But. I had an injury during my camp last time. And I was a little bit hesitant to expose myself during that fight. So I took [a] conservative approach, and I didn’t risk too much. I had to just administer my advantage over her.
And, as a fighter, I believe everyone wants to get that finished, but what matters the most is the win and to get the title. So, it wasn’t the perfect way that I thought it would happen. I was still thinking that even with that approach, I will be able to get that knockout, but the belt came back with me in the end, so that’s what matters the most.”
News of injury leading up to her title win came as a bit of a surprise. However, Velasquez went on to clarify what happened.
“Yeah, actually, I didn’t express myself well. I said injury, but it was actually a sickness,” Velasquez said. “I had COVID-19 right when the fight was announced, and it made me really sick. My lungs didn’t recover for a while. Even my last sparring [session], I was trying to get some air, and I would have a tough time doing that.
So I was afraid of getting [into] the fight and not having the capacity to go the full five rounds, getting tired and letting her take over me. So that’s why I took that approach of trying [not] to waste my energy because I wasn’t confident that my lungs would hold up and that I will be able to keep up the performance until the end.”
Fully recovered, Juliana Velasquez is prepared to defend her title for a long time
In her first title defense, Juliana Velasquez takes on a big challenge in Dutch fighter Denise Kielholtz. She’s currently ranked third in the division, and she’s earned a reputation as an excellent striker with submission skills. Velasquez went on to explain her camp’s strategy in preparing to defend her title against Kielholtz.
“I focus on what I’m good at, and also on what she’s good at and her weaknesses,” said Velasquez. “People talk about her as a striker, but that’s not all that she is. She has a judo black belt. So she’s good in the grappling department too. And I’m sure she’s going to be preparing in all areas to try and surprise me.
So my camp has all been devoted to making me a better fighter than I was when I last fought. And also being able to exploit all the openings that she gives us in her game.”
What’s next for Juliana Velasquez
Juliana Velasquez is determined to defend her title at Bellator 262 this upcoming weekend. Currently a betting favorite, the champion already has a clear picture of what will be next for her if she can retain the belt successfully.
“I think Liz Carmouche is next, by looking at the rankings and her recent wins. I don’t think there’s anyone else, but her, who’s deserving now.”
Carmouche, currently ranked second in the division, has been on a tear since joining Bellator. Carmouche will likely be the biggest challenge to date for Velasquez, with a three-fight win streak that includes two decisive finishes. But that’s assuming Velasquez will walk out of Bellator 262 with her undefeated record still intact.